By Ashlee Green
When the Andy Warhol museum opened in 1994, it was designed to display Warhol’s life story and artwork in chronological order. But over the next 20 years, as the collection grew, the order became altered. In 2014, the entire museum was rehung to return to the original vision. That’s when staff realized how much of Warhol’s tale was not being told.
“Dandy Andy: Warhol’s Queer History” fills the gap. This hour-long tour examines the role of Warhol’s sexuality in his personal life and career. Tour guides provide historical context for Warhol’s art and discuss how it played out alongside the Stonewall riots, the HIV/AIDS epidemic and the “Lavender Scare.” The Lavender Scare sparked mass interrogations, firings and forced resignations of LGBT government employees who were accused of being communist sympathizers.
Warhol generally did not make political statements as an artist, but he was active with others who did like Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat. With help from these influencers, Warhol grew his artistic range and shock value.
“Warhol has this way of entangling attraction and art making,” said Shannon Thompson, Artist Educator at the Warhol.
Often conflicted in his relationship to his sexuality, Warhol sketched men as a way of flirting with them and regularly muddied his business and love affairs. His critics called him too feminine and made fun of his working class background, but Warhol learned to emphasize these factors in his art and persona, turning them into strengths.
“At turns he fostered the unpolished ‘Raggedy Andy’ image of his advertising days, played up his ‘swish’ mannerisms, and agreed with interviewers that his art was vacuous,” Thompson wrote in an email.
“Dandy Andy” is a glimpse into a thread of Warhol’s life the media tends to neglect. Guests learn about his boyfriends, including photographer Ed Wallowitch, poet John Giorno, and film executive Jon Gould, and Warhol film “superstars” like Candy Darling and Mario Montez. Tour guides also discuss how Warhol’s New York studio, the Factory, functioned as an informal LGBT-friendly social hub and the ways the language of queerness has evolved.
To celebrate Pride Month, the Warhol offered the tour every weekend in June. Now guests can catch it the last Saturday of each month at 3 p.m. Tours are free with the price of museum admission.